10 Unusual Things About Steve Jobs.

Via on Sep 6, 2011

I was standing right next to Steve Jobs in 1989 and it was the closest thing I ever felt to being gay.

The guy was incredibly wealthy, good looking enough to get any girl, a nerd super-rockstar who had just convinced my school to buy a bunch of NeXT machines (which, btw, were in fact the best machines to program on at the time) and I just wanted to be him.

I wanted to be him ever since I had the Apple II+ as a kid. Ever since I shoplifted Ultima II, Castle Wolfenstein, and half a dozen other games that my friends and I would then rip from each other and pretend to be sick so we could stay home and play all day.

I don’t care about Apple stock. (Well, I do think it will be the first trillion dollar company). Or about his business successes.

That’s boring.

The only thing that matters to me is how Steve Jobs became the greatest artist that ever lived. You only get to be an artist like that by turning everything in your life upside down, by making horrible, ugly, mistakes, by doing things so differently that people will never be able to figure you out. By failing, cheating, lying, having everyone hate you, and coming out the other side with a little bit more wisdom than the rest.

So, 10 Unusual things I didn’t know about Steve Jobs.

1)      Nature versus Nurture. His sister is Mona Simpson but he didn’t know it until he was an adult. Mona Simpson was one of my favorite novelists from the late 80s. Her first novel, Anywhere but Here, was about her relationship with her parents. Which, ironically, was Steve Jobs’ parents. But since Steve Jobs was adopted (see below) they didn’t know they were brother-sister until the 90s when he tracked her down. It’s proof (to an extent) of the nature versus nurture argument. Two kids, without knowing they were brother and sister, both having a unique sensibility of life on this planet to become among the best artists in the world in completely different endeavors. And, to me it was great that I was a fan of both without realizing (even before they realized) that they were related.

2)      His father’s name is Abdulfattah Jandali. If you had to ask me what Steve Job’s father’s name was I never in one zillion years would’ve guessed that and that Steve Jobs biologically was half Syrian Muslim. For some reason I thought he was Jewish. Maybe its because I wanted to be him so I projected my own background onto him. His parents were two graduate students who I guess weren’t sure if they were ready for a kid so put him up for adoption and then a few years later had another kid (see above). So I didn’t know he was adopted. The one requirement his biological parents had was that he be adopted by two college educated people. But the couple that adopted him lied at first and turned out not to be college educated (the mom was not a high school graduate) so the deal almost fell through until they promised to send Steve to college. A promise they couldn’t keep (see below). So despite many layers of lies and promises broken, it all worked out in the end. People can save a lot of hassle by not having such high expectations and overly ambitious worries in the first place.

3)   He made the game  “Breakout”. If there was one thing I loved almost as much as the games on the Apple II+ it was playing Breakout on my first-generation Atari (I can’t remember, was that the Atari 2600?) And then Breakout on every version of my Blackberry since 2000. If he had never done anything else in life and I had met him and he said, “I’m the guy who made Breakout”, I would’ve said, “you are the greatest genius of the past 100 years.” Funny how things turn out. He went on from Atari to form Apple. Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, went to form the greatest restaurant chain in the history of mankind: Chuck E. Cheese.

4)  He denied paternity on his first child, claiming he was sterile. The other had to initially raise the kid using welfare checks. I have no judgment on this at all. Raising kids is hard. And when you have a kid you feel like this enormous energy and creativity you have for the world is going to get misdirected into a…little baby (Jobs’ parents must’ve felt that way as well. Like father, like son). Heck, I originally wanted my first kid to be aborted. But people change, mature, grow up. Eventually Jobs became a good father. And that’s what counts in the end. Much worse if it was the reverse. I didn’t know this either: that the Lisa computer (the “Apple III”) was named after this first child.

5)  He’s a pescetarian. In other words, he eats fish but no other meat. And he eats anything else a vegetarian eats (including eggs and dairy). Turns out if you compare pescetarians with regular meat-eaters they have a 34% less chance of dying of heart disease. And if you compare vegetarians with meat eaters, they only have a 20% less chance of dying of heart disease. I think from now on I’m going to be a pescetarian, just because Steve Jobs is one. Except when I’m in Argentina. In Argentina you have to eat steak. Ted Danson and Mary Tyler Moore consider themselves pescetarians. Somehow, even the word “pescetarian” seems like it was invented in California.

6)  He doesn’t give any money to charity. And when he became Apple’s CEO he stopped all of their philanthropic programs. He said, “wait until we are profitable”. Now they are profitable, and sitting on $40bb cash, and still they’re not doing corporate philanthropy. I actually think Jobs is probably the most charitable guy on the planet. Rather than focus on which mosquitoes to kill in Africa (Bill Gates is already focusing on that), Jobs has put his energy into massively improving quality of life with all of his inventions. People think that entrepreneurs have to some day “give back”. This is not true. They already gave at the office. Look at the entire iPod/Mac/iPhone/Disney ecosystem and ask how many lives have benefited directly (because they’ve been hired) or indirectly (because they use the products to improve their quality of life). As far as I know, Jobs has never even commented about his thoughts on charity. Good for him. As one CEO of a (currently) Fortune 10 company once told me when I had my hand out for a charitable website,  “Screw charity!”

7) He lied to Steve Wozniak. When they made Breakout for Atari, Wozniak and Jobs were going to split the pay 50-50. Atari gave Jobs $5,000 to do the job. He told Wozniak he got $700 so Wozniak took home $350. Again, no judgment. Young people do things. Show me someone who says he’s been honest from the day he was born and I’ll show you a liar. It’s by making mistakes, having fights, finding out where your real boundaries in life are, that allow you to truly know where the boundaries are.

8) He’s a Zen Buddhist. He even thought about joining a monastery and becoming a monk. His guru, a Zen monk, married him and his wife. When I was going through some of my hardest times my only relief was sitting with a Zen group. Trying to quiet the mind to deal with the onrush of non-stop pain that was trying to invade there. The interesting thing about Jobs being a a Zen Buddhist is that most people would think that serious Buddhism and being one of the wealthiest people in the world come into conflict with each other. Isn’t Buddhism about non-attachment? Didn’t Buddha himself leave his riches and family behind?

But the answer is “no”.  Its normal to pursue passions and outcomes, but just not to become overly attached to those outcomes. Being happy regardless of the outcome. A great story is the Zen master and his student walking by a river. A prostitute was there and needed to be carried over the river. The Zen master picked her up and carried her across the river and then put her down. Then the master and student kept walking. A few hours later the student was so agitated he finally had to ask, “Master, how could you touch and help that prostitute! That’s against what we believe in!” And the Master said, “I left her by the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

9)      He didn’t go to college. I actually didn’t know this initially. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are the famous college dropouts that I knew about. But apparently Steve Jobs went to Reed College for one semester and then dropped out.  I guess you don’t need college to program computers, make computers, build businesses, make movies, manage people, etc.  (Of course, you can see all my other posts on why kids should not go to college)

10)   Psychedelics. Steve Jobs used LSD at least once when he was younger. In fact, he said about the experience, it was “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”  Apple’s slogan for many years was “Think Different”. Maybe using a drug which tore him from the normal frame of reference taught him how to look at problems from such a unique perspective. I don’t think LSD is for everyone, but when you combine it with the innate genius the man had, plus the many ups and downs that he experienced, plus the Zen Buddhism and all of the other things above, its quite possible it all adds up to the many inventions he’s been able to produce.

Steve Jobs’ story is filled with nuance and ambiguity. People study Steve Jobs by looking at his straightforward business successes. Yes, he started Apple in a garage. Yes, he started Pixar and almost went broke with it. Yes, he started and sold Next and he was fired as CEO of Apple, and blah blah blah. But none of that will ever explain the man behind the genius. None of that will explain all the products he invented that we use today. None of that will tell us about the ipad, Toy Story, the Mac Air, the Apple II+, etc. A man’s successes can be truly understood only if we can count his tears. And unfortunately in the case of Steve Jobs, that is one task that’s impossible.

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34 Responses to “10 Unusual Things About Steve Jobs.”

  1. Karen Eliot says:

    He is definitely not attached to working conditions for his employees, I know that.

    I didn’t like him that much to start with, but this just pushed me over the line into active dislike.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you.

  3. chiara ghiron says:

    Like it or not, the man is a genius. And like with most people that stand out from the rest, he well attact both love and hate. And will also do things which we actively dislike to pursue his mission. And that he also probably actively dislikes (remember Arjuna?).
    One little comment on the post. Many of us choose to actively dislike Microsoft, but what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing in the malaria field is incredibly important and cannot just be dismissed as ‘killing mosquitoes’.

  4. iloveappletoo says:

    "Rather than focus on which mosquitoes to kill in Africa (Bill Gates is already focusing on that),"

    what an idiotic, condescending tone, take that ipod our of your ass.

    • Carl Clark says:

      What??

      • I get a lot of nasty comments. I think it's more a function of people projecting their own jealousies and anger. Why else take the valuable time in life to insult someone anonymously. Will it improve anything in life?

        • Mandolin Rich says:

          I agree the post was nasty, but I also disliked your comment about the Gates & their efforts to battle the source of Malaria. We cannot all be like Jobs & we cannot all be like the Gates. We can work to improve things in life in our own way whether by writing, inventing, building businesses or fighting Malaria.

  5. Leonardo says:

    You know, I liked him so much before reading "The second coming of Steve Jobs" and now I just dislike him very much.

    He might be a genius and all, but the way he treats people is not something to be proud of. He is an asshole.

  6. Bendzbackwardz says:

    Sounds like a regular human with too much money.

  7. Laura says:

    my 2 c on Jobs passing…. along with my favorite Jobs quote of all time… I just wrote on my blog. Cool cartoon there too :) what a day, digesting all of this, huh? http://www.laurabrownsblog.com/2011/10/06/the-onl:)

  8. Monique says:

    You are making a lot of absurd excuses for someone who was an overly ambitious liar in his youth. And I'm glad others called you to task on the comment about Bill and Melinda Gates work. This was a bit thoughtless and over the top.

  9. Linda says:

    The man did what the man did. Isn't that what we all do? I keep thinking of all the Bible scriptures that apply to
    the man and to all the hype but the one that suits me best– Your idols will be found to have feet of clay.

  10. Al B There says:

    Do not forget that we aré not all alike. Some people need idols, some others do not, some others lead. And most, do either according to the role taken in every group.
    Personally I try to admire accomplishments, sort of facts, rather than judge mistakes.

  11. guest says:

    sorry but are you on crack or just blinded by the Steve-O light? this post is awful and should offend any intelligent person.
    #4: no judgement? He acted like a jerk. yes judgement. I hope sincerely he made up to the mother and the child
    #7: he acted like a jerk. you don't do that. At the very least, you don't do that to your friend.
    #6: what stupid comment is that? "Rather than focus on which mosquitoes to kill in Africa, Jobs has put his energy into massively improving quality of life with all of his inventions. " Honestly, it's nice to have all those toys but we could live without. starving people or children dying of malaria CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT (hence the dying). Computers are great but he is just making himself rich. Bill Gates is doing the right thing here.
    Missing on the list: #11: when he first was diagnosed with cancer he could have been operated (and would most likely be fine today) but he relied on some weird diet and spiritual healing instead of western medicine. when he realized 8 month later that it didn't work, the early detection of his cancer (placing him in the 90% survival range) had turned into full blown cancer and his survival chance had turned into 10%. so much for genius.
    I guess not in the list because it's a point that everyone knows is the fact that Steve Jobs was feared and hated by his employees. He was a huge jerk. Yes he was innovative and a good entrepreneur but a)Wozniak was according to all accounts the real genius and b) he was terrible to people he worked for. oh, and c) half of your list shows he was a self centered jerk.

    • thesufferingofJobs says:

      I'm totally with you on this. This post reeks of sheer arrogance, and clearly a platform of a groupie, overawed and blinded by the garish light of Jobs.

  12. elissascott says:

    Brilliant thank you :)

  13. Ell says:

    What kind of person can you call yourself when you take so much money out of the world and don't give it back through service or charities? Im sorry, but buddhist certainly doesn't come to mind. Any person with any sort of universal idealistic perspective would not act the way this man did with his power and money. He sounds more like a con-artist to me. If you want to idealize con-artists than go ahead but don't paint a lovely picture of them and call it inspiring.

  14. Sarah says:

    How could he have been a practicing Zen Buddhist and not give to charity? What a contradiction.

  15. amandabethsuutari says:

    I don't know if you're being ironic, but your point on #6 is disturbing on multiple levels. Maybe we need to define 'charity' better. I don't know a lot about Bill Gates' work in Africa, but there are multiple ways that for-profit corporations can and need to share their wealth, particularly when we look at the dysfunctional economic structures that are antithetical to equitable access of resources in the world. Any organization that benefits disproportionately from this imbalance, as Apple has, holds a moral obligation to make some attempt to address it through their funneling their profits back into communities on the wrong side of the economic equation. Your dissmissive comment 'Fuck charity', as though merely hiring people is 'charity enough', shows an extreme ignorance and lack of deep understanding of corporate social responsibility.

    • Kimberly Lo Kimberly Lo says:

      The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done an amazing amount of charitable work around the globe.

      I agree with you about charity. If merely hiring people counts as charity than by that logic, Wal-Mart is the biggest private charity in the world. (We all know the stories about how those workers are treated.)

      Jobs was a remarkable person. His achievements speak for themselves. However, you can achieve great things and act in less-than-wonderful-ways. (His are well documented.)

      Not making the man into a demon, but the continued deification of him is a bit much, IMHO.

  16. Andy says:

    Here's an interesting post about Steve's personal philanthropy efforts:

    How Steve Jobs and his wife secretly gave away TEN OF MILLIONS of their own money to charity…
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2330727/H

  17. Patricia says:

    James, sorry, I just don't get it. Steve Jobs was a genius but he wasn't exactly a good person. I think you can be both … Or at least strive to be both.

  18. Bruce says:

    Another #11: Became a gazillionaire by exploiting twelve year old Chinese girls. Then again I guess that's not very unusual.

  19. Jeff says:

    Greatest artist? Gimme Beatles, Shakespeare, Dylan etc – maybe commerically successful, but will we be using/praising his art in fifty or one hundred years? Sigh…

  20. Charles says:

    Great post. I also agree kids should not go to college.

  21. Lauren says:

    Welcome to life with someone who has Aspergers. Although not formally diagnosed, the man, like nearly all computer geeks (including Bill Gates, Wozniak, etc ) had Aspergers. Think Big Bank Theory, and most doctors and scientists. Just Google Steve Jobs Aspergers. Insensitive jerks, arrogant, narcissistic – yep – pretty much sums it up to those who don't understand the Aspie mind, that is what they appear to be although they also have wonderful qualities as well. I was married to a man with Aspergers for 25 yrs (now divorced) and now a grown daughter with AS..

    • nonie says:

      Wow, Lauren, this is very interesting. I will google about this. Not all asperger's people have these negative qualiti
      tes do they?

  22. Susan says:

    No judgement on this at all because raising kids is hard? Oh come on! That is a rediclious excuse. Thank god that baby dodged all the energy and creativity for the world. The ultimate sacrifice so that Jobs could go on to conquer the world. Thanks fatherless baby.

  23. nonie says:

    I admire Steve Jobs alot. I love his follow your heart, believe in yourself attitude. I especially love that he didn't go to college. I do think he is small in his thinking, however, when it comes to giving back. His world/ego is not generous in my opinion. What he did to his first partner by cheating him and only giving him $350 is very telling. I knew always, about honesty. My children now 37 and 25, are also honest and fair in their dealings with other and wouldn't ever cheat a friend or coworker. I think this speaks volumes about Steve Jobs. It is disappointing and almost sad to me. I think the author of this article is (as he appears to me) also a selfish and feels entitled. The author's rationalization of SJ's cheating and greediness is gross and dismaying to me. THey both fit well into the mindset of rightwing conservative, "I've got mine, screw you" attitude of today.

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